Going back through the history of Super Bowl winners, the old axiom for a winning formula was a combination of a strong running offense with a dominating defense. However, the rules and the game have changed and now favor teams with talented (elite) quarterbacks who are also very good leaders—the new winning formula.
Similarly, the game and rules have changed in the accounting profession. In order to have sustained increases in growth and profitability, and attract and retain highly competent partners and staff, firms need “elite” leaders of very talented and motivated partners.
Firms can no longer play defense—they must play great offense to be a successful firm of the future. Competition for quality clients and staff is fierce, coupled with pressures from consolidation and baby boomer succession issues. It takes great leadership to overcome these challenges. The following are some similarities between elite quarterbacks and elite partners:
- Elite quarterbacks are not born elite, but grow into this status over time, gaining the trust of their team members, just as successful partners of CPA firms evolve into this role over a number of years. It takes time to attain elite partner status by achieving higher levels of technical and practice management skills along with higher levels of trusted advisor roles with clients and staff.
- Elite quarterbacks are masters of their playbooks and study game films of competing teams in great detail in order to correctly execute their offensive game plan. Elite partners in CPA firms study their competition and the marketplace in order to provide the types of services that are in demand and anticipate client needs in order to gain a competitive advantage over their competitors.
- Elite quarterbacks are respected leaders not because of their title, but because of their performance on the field and their ability to instill confidence in their team and to motivate them. Similarly, CPA firm elite leaders are respected for their accomplishments in outstanding performance in client service, new business development, teamwork, respect for others and managing difficult change within the firm.
- Elite quarterbacks know when to change the play at the line of scrimmage very quickly when an unexpected defensive formation is presented. Elite partners change their firm’s plans when the marketplace, competition, and events change by making timely and sometimes tough decisions to overcome obstacles to future success.
- Elite quarterbacks are great clock/time mangers and manage their game plan accordingly. Elite partners manage strategic plans with a sense of urgency and are not complacent about leading their firms to the next level of success.
- Elite quarterbacks can hide shortcomings of other players by making adjustments at the line of scrimmage, throwing an accurate ball, etc., but they can’t do it all themselves. Elite quarterbacks understand that football is a team game. Elite CPA partners are able to sustain their success and the firm’s success by serving as enablers of talent, culture, teamwork, and positive results.
Whether it’s an elite quarterback or CPA firm partner, the common element is that they know how to establish the conditions necessary for their teams to succeed and how to bring their professionals together to achieve shared goals and objectives. They play the game to win, not to just play it, and inspire others to do the same. Having elite partners lead the firm with a winning game plan that is consistently executed by all the firm’s team members will take the firm to the next level of success.